Friday, May 31, 2013

Trying to Get Back in the Groove

This has been a week where it seemed everything was a bit out of whack. For instance:

We were told to expect delivery of our desk and corner cabinet over the weekend. Well, that didn't happen. It was rescheduled for Wednesday.

Monday was a national holiday (Commonwealth Day), so many of the shops were closed and our water delivery guys -- who said they would probably work that day -- didn't show up.

Tuesday we had a wonderful steady rain for most of the day, which we desperately needed. However, it made all the roads pretty mucky.

Wednesday arrived, but our desk and cabinet didn't. We also hoped to get a status for when our Amazon order would be delivered by Roy & Sons, but didn't hear a peep. Oh, and there was also a power outage from 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM.

Thursday we needed to take the car to the mechanic, so he could replace the thermostat. Seems it was sticking and making the temperature gauge hover precariously close to HOT when idling. Not that we are in many situations where we need to idle the car, but it's not something you want to mess with, especially here. It's not like you can call AAA for a tow, and even if there was something like AAA, depending on where you might break down, there could be no cell phone service. On the high side, the car was repaired and returned the same day and our water delivery guys showed up. On the down side, we discovered there's a leak in the kitchen ceiling, right where the attic fan was installed.

And here we are on Friday. Today we need to make a trip to the Immigration Office to get our monthly stamp, run some errands, then while I knock out pizza dough, corn muffins, and some sort of snack for this afternoon's Happy Hour, David will probably go up on the roof to recaulk the area around the attic fan.

But in spite of the weirdness of the week, and because my Pollyanna tendencies won't be denied, hope springs eternal that we will receive word about our desk, cabinet, and Amazon deliveries and things will get back to their normal routine.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

We're a Featured Blog!

If you look to the top right, you'll notice a nifty badge that's joined our blog. It's from the Expats Blog, and they've been kind enough to include us in their blog listings for Belize. 

But here's the thing: Every year they give an award for the best expat blogs for each country listed on their site. In order to win, we need all you guys to go here, post a quick comment on why our blog should win for Belize, and assign a star ranking.

Because we've just been added, you'll notice that we're ranked at the bottom. Granted, there are only three other contenders at the moment, but how cool would it be for our blog to win the bronze, silver, or -- gasp! -- even the gold?

So it you have a spare moment, pop on over to our listing and show us some love!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Time Flies

Today marks exactly one year since we moved to Corozal, Belize. We came here looking for adventure, to experience what it's like to live in a different culture, and have some fun. We've had all of that and more in the last 12 months. To see what I mean, join me as we take a stroll down memory lane.

Not long after we arrived here, a number of house renovations got underway including:

Rescreening our porch and power washing pretty much everything that didn't move.

Having a new septic system installed.

Having a new couch made:
Totally renovating the kitchen from looking like this... looking like this:

(For the full scoop on this project, just type "kitchen remodel" into the search engine at the top of the page.)
And if that wasn't enough fun, we also...
Adopted a kitten...
...and a puppy:

Learned that dogs and anteaters aren't a good mix.

Then there were other projects we tackled, like...

Painting the wash house:

Planting a veggie garden:

Building a media center:

Learning how not to light a water heater:
Installing a pool:
Thatching a palapa:
But it hasn't been all work and no play. The friends we have met here are the best and always seem to be open to have a good time:


All in all, this past year has met and, in many ways, exceeded our expectations. Yes, it can be a quirky place to live at times, but we're glad we made the move and look forward to whatever adventures await us in the weeks and months ahead.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Chicken Curry

Chicken has always been a big favorite of ours, even before we moved to Belize. And while nothing screams comfort food to me like a whole roasted chicken, I am an equal opportunity cook of all things fowl.
Looking for something different to do with some chicken breasts, I caught the tail end of a cooking show that mentioned chicken curry. Now I haven't frequented many Indian restaurants, nor have I experimented with many Indian dishes. But after doing some recipe research, I was convinced that a curry dish might be just the thing to add a little kick to our dinner.
Here's what I made:

And here's how it came to be:

As I mentioned there was a bit of research to figure out what spices and other ingredients should go into the dish. Here are the cast of characters based on what I had in the pantry and spice cupboard, plus what I knew I could pick up at the local grocery stores:

  • 1 small, chopped onion
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 3 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (not shown 'cause I forgot...oops)
  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Now pulling this together is incredibly easy and pretty quick. First drizzle some olive oil in a pan that over medium heat. Toss in your onions and saute them 'til they just start to brown around the edges.

To the onions, toss in the garlic, curry powder, cinnamon, paprika, ginger, sugar, and salt to taste.

Give it all a good stir and then I want you to put your head over the pan and smell it. It will knock your socks off, in a very good way. I want to have my kitchen smell like this all the time.

Let that onion/spice mixture cook for about 2 minutes. Then add your chicken, tomato paste, yogurt, and coconut milk.

Bring the whole thing to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, and cook for about 20 minutes. As the sauce reduces down, the color will deepen, as will the flavor of the spices.

See what I mean about the color? Once the sauce is at this point and your chicken is cooked through, stir in the lemon juice and cayenne pepper. Cook for 5 more minutes and it's time to eat!

As you saw in the very first picture, I opted to serve the curry over rice. David was kind enough to remind me that we had broccoli, bless his heart, because I would never have thought of it because, well, it's a vegetable. He steamed it up as a side and our plate was complete.

Having now made this dish a couple of times, I found that while the curry tastes really good after the initial cooking, it tastes even better if it's made the day before serving. That extra 24 hours to let all the flavors marry takes it over the top. The next time I make it, I want to try marinating the chicken with the yogurt and spices for about an hour, then plopping it into the pan with the onions. Don't know if it will make any difference, but what the heck? I may be on to a slightly different flavor profile that takes it in whole different direction!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Slices of Life from Belize: May 9, 2013

Why Life with a Feline is Never Boring

There are moments when our cat, Bronte, can be the picture of contentment...

Sharing ZZZZs with Sam

...then there are all the other times:

Clearly she didn't like my choice for a new shower curtain liner

Cats: you gotta' love 'em.

Follow up on the Quirks of Corozal Living

You might recall that back on April 18 we stopped by the newly relocated Lands and Survey Department to pay our property taxes. According to the clerk, our records hadn't been entered into the database yet -- even though it's been a year since we bought our house and lots. She made copies of our Land Certificates and sent them to Belmopan so they could be put into the system.

Fast forward a couple of weeks. Stopped by yesterday, but still no dice -- no records on file. So we will try again in another couple of weeks or so and see what happens.

Also, kitty litter is still MIA. Looks like we will need to prevail upon our friends planning a shopping trip in Mexico to snag us a couple of bags to tide us over.

Come on in -- the water is just fine...really!

No, this is not a picture of murder most foul.

Instead, it's Colleen doing water angels in her brand new pool.

Yet another happy, happy camper who will be able to stay sane in the heat.

Words With Friends

This game has become an addiction for me. If you're not familiar with it, think of playing Scrabble online with an opponent. Right now, I have seven different games going and the players are ruthless, including my husband. He shows no mercy and blithely throws words using big point letters, such as "Z", "J", and "Q" on the board with abandon. Where's the love, babe? 

Colleen is another one that plays a cut-throat game using not only super valuable letters in amazing word combinations, but also knows how to block the board so I can't take advantage of open spaces. Snarl.

And can we just talk about playing against Dianna for a moment? Yes, let's. The first couple of games we played, she was leaving all kinds of opportunities for me to score double and triple words. I felt kinda' bad when I'd whup her butt. But then something happened. She started a game and used the word "gazette." Well geez, do you have any idea how many points that is right off the bat? And she didn't stop there. She's been cranking out all kinds of letter combos that have left me in the dust -- especially when my letter rack is filled primarily with vowels. She swears she isn't using a cheat, bringing in an expert wordsmith, or employing any other type of help. Ha! I bet.

Words with friends? Oh yeah, I can think of some real choice words for these "friends" of mine, but can't wait until we all start playing the next rounds.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Raindrops on Roses

Yesterday we had two thunderstorms roll through, bringing some much needed rain and a bit of a surprise.

While the total rainfall was very low, the storms provided us our first opportunity to see how all the pets would handle things being in the house together for an extended period of time.

Some of you know that Sam and Tanya loathe rain. And when combined with thunder and lightening? Oy. They are not happy campers, especially Tanya. We joke that she can hear thunder when it rolls in Illinois and yesterday was no different.

In what seemed like no time at all, thunder heads started forming and the skies darkened. When the first fat drops of rain came down, Sam and Tanya were at the porch door. I let them inside and after some butt sniffing, growling, tail wagging, and yapping, they got settled with Bronte and Olivia.

I positioned myself on the porch love seat so as best to watch our first decent storm of the rainy season. Then it happened...a couple of loud cracks of thunder and a bolt of lightening hit. Next thing I know, Tanya comes slinking out to the porch (having previously been hidden behind the living room couch) and crawled under the love seat. Sam decided to curl up at my feet, Olivia jumped up next to me and put her head on my lap, and the cat assumed a position directly behind me on the ledge.

At that very moment, I started giggling because what flashed through my mind was that scene from the Sound of Music when all the children were in Maria's bedroom when the storm hit and she belts out, "Raindrops on roses, and whiskers on kittens..." I tried humming a few bars, but my four-legged kids weren't inclined to sing along. And being on the porch, they were spared the possibility of me making them play clothes from any curtains.

After a few moments of heavy rain, everything eased up. I figured that was all she wrote and this was going to be a non-event. But then I started hearing this metallic pinging noise. At first, I thought David was having problems lowering the metal roller door to the shop. But that wasn't it. I looked out the back door and kept hearing the noise -- getting louder -- coming from the roof. What in the world was going on? And then all hell seemed to break loose and I had my answer:


Hail -- in Belize! Lots of it coming down from all directions. I felt like I was inside an arcade game with the pellets hitting the metal roof of our house and both outbuildings. And can I just say how amazing it was to watch it ricochet when it hit the metal? Ice was flying every which way.

The whole hail event only lasted a short time, then the rain returned for a bit, and before we knew it, the storm passed and the sun and humidity made it's return.

P.S. Just a brief side note -- we had noticed a leak in one of the gutters by the porch. Seems the endcap was made from wood and held in place with carpet tacks. I kid you not. David did a quick repair yesterday just as the hail storm hit, and finished up the job this morning. Carpet tacks? Really?